Am I a Liberal or Conservative?

 In the new-speak of today’s bi-polar politics, I’m neither Liberal nor Conservative. The Liberal agenda is, according to AM radio proselytizers and FOX News, “tax and spend” or “regulate and restrict.” To left leaning pundits, Conservative is a synonym for “knee-jerk”. And it’s by these definitions that I’m neither Liberal nor Conservative. I decided check out my trusty old Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, © 1975, to see just how I might weigh in with an older definition of political Liberalism and Conservatism.

Liberal: Of or constituting a political party associated with the ideals of individualism, particularly economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives.

Conservative: Of or constituting a political party advocating the support of established institutions.

Hmmm… I definitely believe in the rights of the individual – to the right to speak freely in public; the right for a woman to determine for herself how to deal with an unexpected pregnancy; the right for adults to view, read, drink or smoke whatever they want – as long as this doesn’t prevent another from exercising his or her own rights; the right of a responsible person to own a gun – as long as they don’t actually use it; the right of an individual to believe or disbelieve – as long as they don’t try to force their belief or disbelief on others; the right of individuals to live their lives without constant intervention of an authoritarian government.

I definitely support greater individual participation in government – votes should count!  And finally, I believe that what we call “government” should be considered the equivalent of a citizen’s trade association… a collective bargaining organization which protects us and gives us aggregate power against entities who would otherwise exert unfair advantage by dint of their power and wealth.

But wait – I also advocate the support of some established institutions. I support the principal of majority rule, defined as “… a political principle providing that a majority constituted by fifty percent plus one of an organized group will have the power to make decisions binding upon the whole.” Note that this is different than Plurality Rule in which a small but vociferous faction forces the will of the few upon the many. It’s worth noting that on many issues, there is no majority consent. I find it particularly infuriating that officials elected by fewer than 17% of the voting population declare themselves receptor of a majority mandate!

The system of checks and balances is another institution I support. I believe in a politically independent judicial branch to keep the administrative and legislative branches of government from overstepping their bounds. The legislature should select judges based upon their qualifications, not upon their political affiliations. And, above all, the administrative branch exists to enforce the laws as enacted by congress and as examined by the judicial, not to create the laws as has become the accepted standard.

Although I’m neither a Christian nor a practicing member of any other religion, I believe in the ethical code expressed by Jesus: love one another; judge not; turn the other cheek. Seems to me these are the fundamentals – why are the folks who get all tied up in the details called “fundamentalists”? And while I’m on the subject, didn’t Jesus also advocate taking care of the poor? The answer: of course he did… he said, and I quote:

Jesus says: “I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me something to drink. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me. I was naked and you did not clothe me, sick and you did not take care of me, in prison and you did not visit me…. “

The people ask: “When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, in prison and did not take care of you?”

And Jesus answers back: “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

Since conservatives want to support established institutions, and religion is an “established institution”, and, and since Jesus, as founder of the Christian religion, supports taking care of the poor, by laws of logical deduction, Conservatives want to take care of the poor. On this count, I suppose I’m a conservative and Rush Limbaugh is not. But, I digress.

There are many “established institutions” which I can’t support: racism, sexism, paternalism, homophobia, to name a few. But in fairness – and I do support the institution of fairness -- I don’t think all conservatives are bigoted sexist homophobes. But in a zealous attempt to control the political process, I think conservative politicians have tried to enlist the support of those who want the world to be a safer place for bigotry.

I don’t find anything in the definitions of Liberal or Conservative politics that suggest a Liberal cannot believe in a balanced budget… I firmly believe our nation should follow the same fiscal rules to which responsible American families should adhere – don’t spend more than you take home. Both the Liberal and Conservative should demand fairness of the news media, honesty in elected officials and compassion, not condescension,  for the underprivileged – of which we’re all a part in one way or another. And, both Liberal and Conservative should ponder and embrace this, once again to quoting the Liberal (it fits better than Conservative, I’m afraid) theologian, Jesus: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.